Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians Play “Madonna Of The Wasps”

Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians Queen ElvisListen to this track by formerly monikered Soft Boys and ’80s neo-psychedeliaists Robyn Hitchcock & The Egyptians. It’s “Madonna Of The Wasps”, the lead track on their 1989 record Queen Elvis. In addition to former Soft Boys members Hitchcock, plus bassist Andy Metcalfe, and drummer Morris Windsor, this song features the distinctive lines of another key player worth mentioning; R.E.M’s Peter Buck.

Buck, and his band, were formed by following the example of what Hitchcock had laid down with the Soft Boys, particularly their Underwater Moonlight album. And here, Hitchcock reinforces that influence on one of his most enduring pop songs. A recurring theme in his work seems to revolve around insects, from cans of bees as forming the title of the first Soft Boys record, to references to Antwomen later on, and even with a documentary about him called Sex, Food, Death … And Insects, with all of those other things referenced being recurring themes in his work as well.

Hitchcock’s particular parallel is to draw a comparison between our six-legged friends and a form of idealized womanhood. And no song does this better than this one. And it shows something else too beyond Hitchcock’s affinity for writing songs about our winged, stingie-tailed pals.

Read more

Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians Play “My Wife and My Dead Wife”

robyn_hitchcock__the_egyptians-fegmania_album_coverListen to this track, a Bowiesque tale of the supernatural, or maybe just another love song from a different angle.  It’s Robyn Hitchcock and his then-new band the Egyptians with “My Wife and My Dead Wife” as taken from the 1985 album Fegmania!

Robyn Hitchcock was the former frontman for the Soft Boys, and had up until this record written songs that evoked an 80s take on 60s Psychedelia, a sort of British equivalent to the Paisley Underground scene in the States.  But, he was as interested in David Bowie as much has he was in 60s psychedelia, mixing in glam with absurdism. By 1984 after three solo albums, he gathered together with former Soft Boys Andy Metcalfe and Morris Windsor to form Robyn Hitchcock and the Egyptians, a band that would last, in name at least, into the early 90s.

Hitchcock is known of course for his ability to write from unexpected vantage points, often judged as willfully weird, even if his abilities with writing pop hooks are as accessible as you’d like.  The oddness is certainly front and centre here.  But, the story here of a man with an unwelcome house guest – his former, in every sense, wife. But, is this a literal tale of a man and his new bride plagued by the spirit of his deceased wife? Or is this just an elaborate metaphor for a man who has remarried too soon, who has not let himself get over one love before pursuing another?

I like to think of this as an Anglicized take on the magical realism literary tradition, which allows for both things to be true.  In this tradition, very popular in Central American fiction,  a fantastical element like a ghost of a dead person is both literal and metaphorical, haunting the living as a literal ghost, but also at the same time as a memory, too.  As such, what we’re getting here is a novel’s worth of drama wrapped inside a single song, something of a comic-tragedy.  The narrator is a man in conflict, who can’t decide which wife he loves more – the one he’s with, or the one who haunts his memory.

It’s lighthearted, but somehow it’s sad.  As wrapped up as it is in absurdity and irony, it paints an acccurate portrait of a lot of relationships, with the ghosts of lovers past floating in and out of them, uninivited.  It’s these forces that often keep us from moving forward with the new person who is right in front of us, held as we are by the spirit of an old love that we somehow idealize instead.

For more about Robyn Hitchcock, check out


Robyn Hitchcock & the Egyptians play ‘So You Think You’re in Love’

robyn_hitchcockListen to this song by wingnut genius singer-songwriter and psych-pop revivalist Robyn Hitchcock with his late 80s-early 90s band The Egyptians: “So You Think You’re in Love” from his 1991 album Perspex Island.

This song and the record off of which it comes was Hitchcock’s shot at ‘breaking America’, something of a cliche perhaps among English pop musicians.  At the end of the 80s, Hitchcock found a friend in REM, who were also interested in the jangly-60s Byrdsian approach to pop songwriting. But, where REM had established an audience in the mainstream by then, Hitchcock was still trolling the waters of cult and college radio hipness.  Yet, the two bands toured together at the height of REM’s success, exposing the Egyptians to a crowd who might never have otherwise heard them.

In some ways, Hitchcock never really stood a chance at being the biggest band in the world.  Although this song is totally accessible and in a classic Beatles-Byrds pop vein, Hitchcock’s lyrical interests are still way off of the beaten track and into the trees.  This is what I love about him, of course.  Well, that and he still knows enough to write good tunes as well.  But, a mainstream audience would never be ready for a guy who likes to write about food and insects, in addition to being able to write cool love songs like this one.

For more information about Robyn Hitchcock, check out his site.